EXCELSIOR - A tanker truck plunged some 40 feet off a bridge abutment along Route 901 early Monday, landing on railroad tracks in the darkness.

The driver, John Firestine, 49, of E. Clay St., Shamokin, miraculously escaped with non-life-threatening injuries from the 12:50 a.m. crash. He was listed in fair condition at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, Monday afternoon.

Police said they could not confirm a report that he had jumped out of the vehicle before it fell.

The tanker, used to haul milk but empty at the time, came to rest on its side length-wise on the tracks. The Freightliner tractor cab was just off the edge of the rails.

Driver out when police arrive

Coal Township Patrolman Chris Lapotsky said Firestine was driving traveling north, approximately one mile west of Excelsior, when the truck veered off the road for an unknown reason. It plowed through guide rails on the east side of the highway and then through a sloping weeded area before teetering over the cement bridge abutment and falling.

Firestine was already out of the vehicle when police arrived, and was taken to the hospital by AREA Services before he could be questioned further, police said.

The truck and tanker, owned by RW Trucking Inc., Pleasant Gap, were still connected after the fall onto the railroad tracks, which are owned by North Shore Railroad. The front of the cab was heavily damaged; it appeared as if it may have hit first. The roof of the cab was somewhat compressed, especially on the driver's side.

A considerable pile of debris was lying at the base of the large concrete wall that's part of the abutment.

The railroad tracks cross under Route 901 at that location.

By about 8 a.m. Monday, the demolished rig was being removed by heavy-duty tow trucks from Sunbury Motors.

On scene with police and emergency equipment were Northumberland County Department of Public Safety officials and Coal Township Fire Department personnel.